The 2019 NFL season is all but here. Starting this week, running up until the start of the preseason, all 32 NFL teams will be hard at work in training camp; all eyes fixed towards the trophy that has once again found a home in Foxboro.
Some teams will be entering the season with a new head coach. Some will see some turnover in the offensive or defensive scheme. All will be tutoring freshly drafted rookies, and most will be acclimating newly signed, prized free agents to new surroundings — all while working towards the same goal: playing football next January.
The start of training camp is always an exciting time for fans of the game. Here, helping you prepare for the weeks ahead, is PFF's all-32 team training camp preview.
The Broncos have struggled mightily at the quarterback position ever since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset. Case Keenum was a disappointment last year, as was Paxton Lynch and everybody else. Enter Joe Flacco, who is a Super Bowl champion and has at least played at a very high level at one point in time. Now at 34 years old, Flacco will hope to rekindle some of the magic that he had when he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory six years ago. In addition to the big change at quarterback, the Broncos also made a head coaching change this offseason, bringing in the defensive-minded Vic Fangio from Chicago. Fangio led the NFL’s best defensive unit last season, and he has all the tools necessary to do it again with the Broncos in 2019.
Staying true to their no-fly-zone persona, the Broncos brought in defensive backs Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan in free agency this year. Callahan is one of the league’s best slot cornerbacks; over the last three seasons, he has earned an 80.9 slot coverage grade that ranks seventh among the 49 slot cornerbacks with at least 50 targets in that time span. Callahan has also allowed a passer rating of just 76.2 over the past three years, ranking second among slot corners. Jackson was used all over the field last season, as he logged 117 snaps in the box, 328 snaps in the slot, 467 snaps at outside cornerback and 135 snaps at free safety. That versatility coincided with Jackson’s career-high single-season grade of 85.7 last year – something that he’ll look to replicate in the Broncos’ secondary this season.
Denver picked tight end Noah Fant out of Iowa with their first-round pick in this year’s draft. Fant is a freakish athlete who can be an elite pass-catching tight end in today’s NFL, especially because he’s being paired with offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, who spent the last couple seasons in San Francisco and assisted in an offensive scheme that was responsible for George Kittle’s breakout season. The Broncos’ second-round pick, offensive tackle Dalton Risner, started all four years at Kansas State and earned the nation’s highest overall grade (90.7) among the 200-plus offensive tackles who had at least 600 snaps. John Elway also drafted a potential quarterback for the future in Drew Lock out of Missouri. Lock earned an overall grade of 88.9 last season, ranking ninth out of 70-plus quarterbacks who had at least 350 dropbacks.
The stage is set for six-year veteran Derek Carr, who is due $22.5M in 2019, to sink or swim in a Raiders uniform this upcoming season. The former Fresno State signal-caller has yet to rank inside the top-10 among qualifiers in passer rating from a clean pocket in any one season of his career, and that includes his career-best season in 2016. His performance under pressure, as it is with all quarterbacks in the NFL, is up and down every year. Where he needs to prove he can play well with consistency is from a clean pocket, and he should have every reason to do so with the Raiders’ new additions on the offensive side of the ball.
Oakland added Trent Brown, Tyrell Williams and Antonio Brown as free agents this offseason, and made both Trent and Antonio the highest-paid players at their respective positions to do so. Though Trent has never earned an 80.0-plus pass-blocking grade and has logged just one season with a 70.0-plus run-blocking grade, he’s an upgrade over North Carolina A&T product Brandon Parker and should help Carr stay upright at least slightly better than last year. Antonio is coming off his lowest-graded season in the PFF era, but he’s still one of the league’s best wideouts and is destined to return to form as a high-volume contributor in the offense.
Jon Gruden & Co. drafted high-character, quality football players with each of their first four picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, but they drafted each of them a handful of picks before we at PFF would have selected them. Clemson edge Clelin Ferrell, the Raiders’ first of three first-round picks, finished the 2018 season ranked tied for ninth among qualifiers at his position in pass-rush grade (89.9). He also ranked 16th in pass-rush win percentage (18.6%) and 13th in pressure percentage (17.4%).
Patrick Mahomes exploded onto the NFL scene a year ago, throwing no-look passes and 50 touchdowns en route to an AFC Championship berth in just his second year in the NFL. Tom Brady and the Patriots ended the Chiefs' run with a win over Mahomes & Co. in Arrowhead, but the future remains bright with Mahomes expected to pick up where he left off in 2019.
After losing Dee Ford and Justin Houston early in the offseason, Kansas City's brass made a trade for Frank Clark and signed Alex Okafor, Tyrann Mathieu and Bashaud Breeland in an effort to make up for said losses and improve upon what was an underwhelming defensive unit in 2018. Clark recorded the 10th-most pressures of any edge defender this past season, while Okafor earned just a 62.2 pass-rush grade and recorded 39 pressures with the New Orleans Saints in 2018. Mathieu is a versatile piece that can play slot cornerback, box safety and free safety if needed.
After trading their first-round pick to Seattle for Clark, the Chiefs waited until Day 2 to select receiver Mecole Hardman of Georgia with their first pick at 56th overall. While his physical skill set resembles Tyreek Hill, his production does not, with just a 72.2 receiving grade last season. Hardman also never cracked 600 yards receiving in college. The team’s second selection, safety Juan Thornhill, was a much better one in the eyes of PFF. Thornhill has the athletic profile, size and production to be a potential impact player in the NFL. Thornhill finished 2018 with an 80.0-plus grade in every major defensive category, including an 87.0 coverage grade. Small-school Khalen Saunders was another quality pick in the third round after impressing at the Senior Bowl with the second-highest win-rate among pass-rushers.
The Chargers come into 2019 with more hope than ever after an excellent draft this spring and wise choices in free agency. While the headlines may speak of Melvin Gordon’s contract holdout, the true question will be if the offensive line in front of him and 15-year veteran quarterback Philip Rivers will finally be able to stay healthy and play up to expectations in 2019.
Gordon’s training camp holdout has been the one monkey wrench in an otherwise smooth offseason for the Chargers. They brought in veteran linebacker Thomas Davis, who earned a 74.4 coverage grade and an overall grade of 74.2 at 35 years old this past season. He will pair in part with linebacker Denzel Perryman, who missed half of last season due to a knee injury but still managed 22 stops and a 70.1 overall grade. Chargers GM Tom Telesco did let deep-threat receiver Tyrell Williams walk in free agency, along with oft-injured corner Jason Verrett. Williams has always had the tools but has never built upon his 75.6 grade from his second year in the league when he cracked 1,000 yards for the first and only time in his career.
The Chargers concluded the draft with one of only six “excellent” ratings given out by PFF's Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner in PFF’s annual NFL Draft Grades. The Chargers got a top-10 talent in Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery, who tied for the nation’s highest pass-rushing grade at 92.5, with the 28th overall pick. The team then found the perfect pairing for Derwin James with Delaware’s Nasir Adderley, an explosive free safety with the range to play single-high coverage in the Chargers' Cover-3 scheme. PFF had a first-round grade on the 60th overall pick, who earned a 90.3 overall grade and performed well at the Senior Bowl. Those two players alone were enough, but the team then landed linebacker Drue Tranquill in the fourth round, who was one of the best coverage linebackers in college football with an 83.3 coverage grade last season.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo enters his sixth season in the NFL with as much intrigue as he has an upside. The former second-round pick has flashed brilliance during his shorts stints on the field but has only played 777 snaps in his professional career. What is encouraging is that he has only posted a season passer rating from a clean pocket below 100.0 once in his career. His adjusted completion percentage has also only dipped below 74.0% once, in an injury-shortened 2018.
The 49ers signature move of the offseason was their trade for Dee Ford, who led the NFL with 84 edge pressures last season. The team also took gambles on Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander, who is coming off a torn ACL and has missed 78 tackles in his four-year career. He does represent a significant upgrade in coverage ability and athleticism at the position opposite second-year standout Fred Warner. Alexander put together back-to-back 70.0-plus coverage grades before his injury-shortened 2018. The team also signed their second cornerback coming off a torn Achilles when they picked up Jason Verrett on a one-year prove-it deal. Verrett has not played a full season since 2015 when he finished with an elite coverage grade of 90.9.
The 49ers did the right thing by selecting Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, who owns the highest overall graded season by and edge rusher in the PFF College Era (93.9 in 2017). Deebo Samuel was the team’s second-round pick and will likely need his yards after catch ability in a Kyle Shanahan offense that values that skill. While it’s not a PFF-approved move, the team drafted Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky in the fourth round but made up for it by getting a steal in the sixth round in corner Tim Harris. After battling through two seasons worth of injuries, Harris posted an 83.8 overall grade in his sixth year at Virginia.
The Rams were tasked mostly with mitigating their losses this offseason after earning the highest team grade in the NFL last season, at 95.4 overall. That’s what happens to teams that have the best record in the league and make it all the way to the Super Bowl. Still, the Rams were able to get better in key areas thanks to quarterback Jared Goff playing on his rookie deal.
GM Les Snead let key contributors walk in free agency after the team’s Super Bowl run. Gone are guard Rodger Saffold, who was a top-five run-blocker in 2018; center John Sullivan, who retired; and safety Lamarcus Joyner, who will be replaced with All-Pro Eric Weddle. Weddle comes over from Baltimore in his 13th year, yet still allowed a passer rating of just 62.3 last season. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh took his 48 pressures from a season ago to Tampa Bay. Clay Matthews returns to LA this offseason but is not the terror he once was off the edge, with a career-low 30 pressures last season.
The Rams traded back twice before making their first pick in the NFL draft this spring. Box safety/linebacker prospect Taylor Rapp was a value in PFF’s eyes at 61st overall after earning a 90.1 overall grade last season. Rapp brings a physical style, along with a 91.1 run-defense grade and 16 stops to his name. Corner David Long Jr. gave up just 42 receiving yards and one touchdown at Michigan last year, and while his coverage grade of 83.2 doesn’t match his eye-popping numbers, he has the potential to be a steal as a third-round pick. Tackle Bobby Evans and running back Darrell Henderson of Memphis were fine picks in the third round, but Greg Gaines could be a steal in the fourth round. The former Huskies nose tackle is not a physical prototype, but earned a 92.9 run-defense grade and can potentially do the dirty work to free up Aaron Donald to wreak his usual havoc.
Kliff Kingsbury is the latest spread-offense guru that will try to make his system work in the NFL. General Manager Steve Keim did his best to put Kingsbury in position to succeed by drafting Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft this spring. Murray isn’t just the best quarterback from this spring’s draft; he’s the best fit for this system. He combines elite potential as a runner with elite passing skills. His accuracy on open-window throws was the highest in college football at both 10-plus and 20-plus yards downfield last season.
Arizona attacked every level of defense in free agency, adding veteran corners Robert Alford and Tramaine Brock in hopes that one of the two will bounce back from near career-low grades in 2018. Former Chargers defensive tackle Darius Philon signed with the team this offseason after earning a solid run-defense grade of 70.2 last season. Former all-pro Terrell Suggs can still get it done, posting 58 pressures last season for the Ravens in his 16th season. Linebacker Jordan Hicks steps into the middle of the defense as a massive upgrade to the coverage unit after never grading below 71.0 in his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. One area the team failed to address this offseason was offensive line. They traded for Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert but left the rest of the line largely untouched after a season that saw them fall to dead last in pass-blocking efficiency, at 77.6.
It was the draft where Steve Keim truly shined in PFF’s opinion. Not only did they draft Murray first overall, but they also got a top-10 player on PFF’s big board at the top of the second round in corner Byron Murphy. They followed that up by spinning last year’s first-round pick Josh Rosen into receiver Andy Isabella and finding value in the middle round with edge defender Zach Allen (third round) and Hakeem Butler (fourth). All told, the Cardinals walked away with five players ranked in the PFF top-50 in the first four rounds.
After wide receiver Doug Baldwin announced his retirement in May, it became clear why the Seattle Seahawks focused so heavily on the wideout position in the offseason. In losing Baldwin, the Seahawks are also losing quarterback Russell Wilson’s most targeted receiver in each of the past five seasons. Baldwin had just one season of a passer rating when targeted below 100.0, and his season grade never dropped below 70.0 in eight years. Now, it’s up to some younger pieces to step up behind new No. 1, Tyler Lockett.
Little was done by the Seahawks in free agency about their receiver dilemma, likely due in part to the uncertainty surrounding Baldwin’s injury situation. However, the issue was clearly addressed in the 2019 NFL Draft. Seattle selected wide receivers D.K. Metcalf, Gary Jennings and John Ursua. That group alone could prove to be one of the flashiest young corps in the NFL.
Jennings’ 144.7 passer rating when targeted ranks fifth among all FBS wide receivers in 2018. He was West Virginia’s slot threat, hauling in 13 touchdowns on 72 targets in 2018. Ursua also operated primarily out of the slot at Hawaii and had the second-most targets from inside (133) and the most touchdowns (15) among FBS receivers in 2018. Meanwhile, Metcalf’s size alone at 6-foot-3, 227 pounds makes him one to watch moving forward, despite him falling down draft boards as an originally projected first-rounder.
It isn’t a dire situation for the Seahawks — Lockett has proven to be one of the most consistent receivers in the NFL and even notched a perfect passer rating when targeted last year. The numerous unproven talents sitting behind him will get plenty of opportunities to show they belong in the starting 11.
New England coaching staff’s revolving door continued to spin this offseason as defensive play-caller Brian Flores was hired on as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and former defensive line coach Brendan Daly departed for Kansas City. Per ESPN, the likely candidate to be the next defensive coordinator is actually Bill Belichick himself. Not to bury the lede, but those changes are not the only national storylines concerning New England heading into 2019. Rob Gronkowski is now officially retired, and Josh Gordon’s suspension will have a tremendous impact on the Patriots’ receiving corps whichever way the domino falls.
Unlike their usual offseason methodology, the Patriots produced a splash in free agency after losing elite edge defender Trey Flowers (90.4) to Detroit, managing to sign veteran wide receiver Demaryius Thomas as well as trade for edge defender Michael Bennett. Thomas has been one of the most productive receivers in the PFF era (2006 – present) finishing 31 games with an average of 3.00-plus yards per route run – the eighth-most games of any receiver in that stretch. Bennett had earned four 80.0-plus season grades in his career, even nearly reaching elite status in 2013 when he obtained an 89.8 grade.
Although New England’s roster aged in free agency, a new crop of young talent enters the fold in the shape of the 2019 NFL Draft. Atop the list is a first-round wide receiver and Arizona State-alumnus N’Keal Harry who finished at No. 61 overall on PFF’s big board. He was, however, one of the hardest receivers to bring down in college football, racking up 38 broken tackles in his three seasons. At pick 77, The Patriots also added Former Michigan edge defender Chase Winovich, PFF’s No. 28 overall player in the class, and later, Hjalte Froholdt, a Danish guard that thrived in pass protection allowing just five pressures last season.
An ideal 2019 season for the Dolphins would involve Josh Rosen, the former first-round pick Miami's brass traded for this offseason, taking a significant step forward in Year 2 of his young NFL career. Wily veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is a stop-gap solution at best for Miami, so the team's brass should do everything they can to evaluate Rosen and see if he can be a long-term solution under center. Again, ideally, Rosen proves just that in 2019, but he faces an uphill battle in doing so with such an underwhelming supporting cast.
Miami didn't make waves with their moves in free agency. The team lost offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James and failed to add talent to properly replace the 2014 first-rounder, turning a bad situation along the offensive line into the worst in the NFL. And though Miami did re-sign DeVante Parker, he along with the rest of the Dolphins' pass-catchers are nothing to write home about. Albert Wilson, who is expected to return form after a season-ending injury cost him much of his 2018 season, should be the team's front runner in terms of targets, yards, etc.
The Dolphins' first selection in the 2019 NFL Draft was former Clemson defensive interior Christian Wilkins, a top-notch run defender with some potential to develop into a premier interior pass-rusher. He earned a 93.6 run-defense grade and a 91.0 pass-rush grade with the Tigers this past season. The team's third-round pick, Wisconsin guard Michael Deiter, earned a career-high 82.1 pass-blocking grade in 2018 and could win a starting nod along the offensive line with a good camp and preseason.
It was an awkward transition from former GM Mike Mike MacCagnan to new Jets GM Joe Douglas. After firing MacCagnan less than three weeks after the draft, the team took nearly a month to land on Douglas all the while interim GM and head coach Adam Gase was reportedly considering trading new free agent running back Le’Veon Bell. Now that the Jets have their coach and GM duo in place, we’ll see what they can build around second-year quarterback Sam Darnold.
The Jets attacked the offseason to build as quickly as they could around Sam Darnold, making some good and some bad signings in the process. The team overpaid for low-value positions in linebacker C.J. Mosley (five years, $85M) and Bell (four years, $52M). While Mosley is solid, he’s just an average coverage linebacker with a career-high grade of 78.6 in that area. Bell is a great weapon out of the backfield with two seasons over 100 catches, but his position simply limits his value. It wasn’t all bad, though. The team brought back Henry Anderson, who earned a 76.5 overall grade last season and added 48 pressures from the nose. They also brought in slot receiver Jamison Crowder and traded a late-round pick for Raiders lineman Kelechi Osemele. The veteran lineman had a career-low grade of 53.7 last year but is only two years removed from an 84.9 overall grade.
The trade up for Darnold last year tapped out a lot of the Jets' draft capital this spring, but the team made the most of it, grabbing Alabama’s Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick. Williams earned the highest interior defensive lineman grade in the PFF College era (2014-18) with a 96.0 overall grade last season. The Jets continued to add to the trenches with their next two picks, selecting Florida’s Jachai Polite 68th overall and USC’s Chuma Edoga at 92.0. Polite was a terror from the edge last season. He earned a 90.9 pass-rushing grade but slipped down the draft boards due to a poor Combine showing.
After stripping the roster down to the studs in the past two seasons, Buffalo signed 22 free agents this offseason in an effort to surround volatile second-year quarterback Josh Allen with enough talent to succeed in 2019. Allen was responsible for the eighth-most positively graded plays by a quarterback last season but finished dead last in negatively graded plays. He may never be a surgeon from the pocket (30th in passer rating from a clean pocket), but his explosive arm talent and active legs could build the foundation for something unique in 2019 if backed by a solid defense.
Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott invested heavily in the offense this offseason, signing deep threat receiver John Brown and slot specialist Cole Beasley to pair with tight end Tyler Kroft, who was signed from Cincinnati. Brown has been a career deep threat, with 109 of his 425 career targets coming on deep balls. The team also added six offensive linemen highlighted by center Mitch Morse, who is a quality pass-blocker when healthy (81.2 pass-blocking grade last season) and Quinton Spain, a big-bodied pass-blocker who only allowed 16 pressures last season with the Titans.
The Bills used the draft to fill voids along both lines, starting with Ed Oliver out of Houston with the ninth overall pick. Oliver was one of the best interior pass-rushers in the 2019 NFL Draft, as he earned an impressive 91.1 pass-rushing grade despite playing the majority of his snaps at nose tackle. Second-round pick Cody Ford allowed one sack last season at Oklahoma and will likely start at tackle first, but he has the ability to play guard as well. The team continued to add talent at the skill positions during the middle rounds. Third-round running back Devin Singletary forced 203 missed tackles at FIU and third-round tight end Dawson Knox from Ole Miss averaged 18.9 yards per reception last season.
The Giants have been the butt of a fair number of jokes around their use of draft capital in the last two seasons. Saquon Barkley was unbelievable, as expected, in his rookie season and enters 2019 as one of only two running backs to rank in the PFF50, our list that marks the 50 best players heading into the 2019 season regardless of position. Despite that, he added just over half a win over a replacement-level player based on PFF’s wins above replacement metric (ranking 65th among all offensive players), showing the dangers of drafting a running back at second overall. The Giants followed that up by taking quarterback Daniel Jones at sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft — a player that came in at 70th overall on PFF's big board. It remains to be seen if Jones can unseat the incumbent Eli Manning and elevate his game to a level worthy of that high draft slot, but as of now, it looks like a reach.
That being said, the Giants actually had a solid draft if you can look past the first selection. Their second and third first-round selections both have the potential to be difference makers on the defense. Dexter Lawrence is coming off three consecutive seasons at Clemson grading at 86.0 or higher, and they got great values on players like Deandre Baker and Julian Love while picking up a highly productive edge at the NCAA level in Oshane Ximines.
The big headline in the Giants’ offseason stems from the blockbuster trades they made, namely the trade that sent star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns. There’s no way around it; the loss of OBJ will hurt the Giants’ offense immensely. They did manage to get a promising, young safety, Jabrill Peppers, back in the deal after he bumped his grade from 60.5 in his rookie season to 77.6 last year in a more well-suited role for his talents. His addition should help mitigate the loss of Landon Collins.
The other big trade the Giants’ made this offseason involved shipping out the oft-criticized Olivier Vernon for guard Kevin Zeitler. Vernon was a steady performer, notching an 86.3 overall grade with New York last season. His departure will leave a hole in the defensive front. Kevin Zeitler adds stability to the interior offensive line and a strong complement to the young left guard Will Hernandez, though. Since 2014, his pressure rate allowed of 3.0% ranks 6th among all guards with 1,000 or more pass-blocking snaps.
No head coach has been dealt a worse hand than Jay Gruden throughout his tenure in the DC, and it's not particularly close at this point. A combination of the Kirk Cousins saga, the seemingly endless carousel of injured starters and some uninspiring additions in both the draft and free agency have all now led to what will no doubt be a make-it-or-break-it year in the nation's capital.
The defense, namely the front seven, has quietly been developed into one of the NFL's finest, and the physical presence of free-agent signing Landon Collins will both strengthen that young nucleus of players and fix a position that's been a problem for a long time in Washington. Since 2006, when PFF started grading games, 33 different safeties have manned the safety position for Washington, yet Sean Taylor (84.9, 2007) and LaRon Landry (80.6, 2008) are the only two who finished with a single-season grade above 80.0. Even D.J. Swearinger, who seemed like the answer at the position until his late-season dismissal, left the team with a grade of 79.8 which was the highest single-season grade by a Redskins safety in over a decade. Collins has graded above 70.0 in three of his four years in the NFL, and he's just two seasons removed from a year in which he earned an 82.4 overall grade — the 10th-best grade among safeties. It's one of many offseason storylines for the Washington franchise, but Collins' addition to this talented defense shouldn't be overlooked.
As far as the most important position in the game, and the Skins' biggest offseason storyline, the side got an absolute steal when quarterback Dwayne Haskins fell into their laps at Pick 15 in the 2019 NFL Draft. Haskins finished the pre-draft process ranked 10th on the PFF draft board. Drawing striking similarities to Sam Bradford, Haskins was fantastic throwing at the short and intermediate levels in his lone year as a starter at the college level, and the pick provides the Redskins hope that they can overcome the oh-so tricky Alex Smith situation hopefully sooner rather than later.
Much of the talk around the Cowboys this offseason has been around their in-house contract negotiations rather than the flashy moves they’ve made bringing in players. They were able to lock up their standout pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence – coming off two straight seasons with overall grades of 88.0 or higher – to a 5-year contract extension in excess of 100 million. Along with Lawrence, contract talks have swirled around their core group of offensive playmakers: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper. Here at PFF, we believe the Cowboys should be wary of handing out monster extensions to that group, though. Prescott and Elliott, especially, most likely aren’t worth the money that they’ll be commanding on the open market. Lastly, on the in-house front, it can’t be underestimated the impact that Travis Frederick returning to the offensive line will make. He has been the best center in the league when healthy, and his return should be a big boost.
As far as bringing in outside talent via free agency, the Cowboys’ biggest signings were two veterans – Robert Quinn and Randall Cobb. Quinn appears primed to step in and start opposite Lawrence, but he’s coming off three consecutive sub-par seasons after picking up a 91.7 overall grade from 2013-2015 which ranked third among all edge defenders. It doesn’t seem likely given the last three seasons, but if he is able to bounce back to that level of production, it would be an enormous boost to the Dallas defense. Cobb comes in as the replacement for Cole Beasley, who is now a member of the Buffalo Bills. Like Quinn, Cobb appears to be on the decline after two straight seasons grading below 65.0. With the signing of those two players, the Cowboys are banking on career rejuvenations on cheap contracts.
Dallas didn’t have the luxury of a first-round pick in this year’s draft, having spent it to acquire Cooper, but they still managed to grab a couple of players that should have an impact, particularly along the defensive line. Trysten Hill showed that he was a disruptor on the defensive line and should make a push for significant snaps as a rookie. Along with Hill, edge rusher Joe Jackson could surprise and force his way onto the field ahead of Quinn and Taco Charlton. He recorded a pressure rate of 18.9% and a pass-rush win rate of 21.7% at Miami last season, both tops among draft-eligible ACC edge defenders.
The Eagles arguably have the most talented roster in the NFL. The team finished first in PFF’s offensive line rankings and pass-rush rankings while also finishing eighth in PFF’s run-defense rankings. While there’s reason for concern in the secondary, Philadelphia has every reason to make a postseason run if, and it’s a big if, quarterback Carson Wentz can stay healthy and return to his 2017 form.
Philadelphia’s brass spent a majority of its offseason making efforts to fit Wentz with as much firepower as possible. The team traded for veterans Jordan Howard and DeSean Jackson, adding a veteran presence to a young backfield and giving Wentz a proven deep threat in the passing game. Jackson earned a career-high 80.8 receiving grade with the Bucs in 2018.
Even more talent was added on the offensive side of the ball in the 2019 NFL Draft. Philly spent first- and second-round picks on former Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard, Stanford wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Penn State running back Miles Sanders. While Dillard is much more of a depth piece with the potential to take over for veteran Jason Peters in the future, Sanders and Arcega-Whiteside should contribute early doors. JJAW was a contested-catch machine with profound red-zone ability with the Cardinals. He earned an impressive 90.3 overall grade in 2018. In Sanders’ lone year as the Nittany Lions’ starter, he rushed for over 1,200 yards, forced 47 missed tackles and earned an 83.1 rushing grade.
Jacksonville tried to get aggressive this offseason and attack their Super Bowl window by moving on from quarterback Blake Bortles (32nd among qualifying quarterbacks in overall grade in 2018) and signing former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles (ranked 20th in overall grade in 2018). They also tried to attack their weakness on the offensive line with additions through free agency and the draft. The team sustained a blow when linebacker Telvin Smith announced he would sit out the 2019 season, and the Jaguars will look to rookie first-round pick Josh Allen for an added spark on the defensive unit.
The Jaguars hope that the addition of Foles and some key pieces on the offensive line will be enough to put them over the top in the AFC. Last season, Foles’ 72.0 passer rating and 12.3 average depth of target on throws under pressure both ranked inside the top-11 among qualifying quarterbacks. The squad also added veteran tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, who will be looking to start fresh after a rough start to his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in the first round in 2015.
When Allen fell to the seventh pick in the draft, the Jaguars may have gotten away with the steal of the first round. When you look at all 249 edge defenders with at least 200 pass-rushing snaps last season, Allen ranked first in pass-rush grade (94.4), first in pressure rate (23.5%) and second in pass-rush win rate (29.3%). Adding him to a defensive line rotation featuring Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue gives the Jaguars one of the fiercest pass-rushing units in the AFC. Adding Jawaan Taylor, who was PFF’s No. 15 overall player in the draft, could help to bolster the offensive line and protect Foles, as well. Overall, the Jaguars hope to ride their strong defense and an improved passing attack to try and contend for the top spot in the crowded AFC South.
Tennessee had some bright spots last season but ultimately just missed out on the playoffs. The offense was part of the issue, as the team ranked 25th in team passing grade and 24th in team receiving grade in 2018. Marcus Mariota will look to prove that he is worth a contract extension after producing a combined 24 touchdown passes against 23 interceptions the last two years and passing for barely 180 yards a game last year. The Titans made a concerted effort to provide Mariota with more weapons and bolstered a pass-rushing unit that ranked 22nd last season.
While Corey Davis has flashed at times, the Titans have lacked a consistent underneath receiving threat. While Adam Humphries is an upgrade, there’s likely limited upside with the receiver who produced 1.43 yards per route run a year ago, which ranked 52nd among 96 qualifying receivers, while his 1.41 yards per route run from the slot still ranked just 12th out of 26 qualifying players at the position. The addition of Rodger Saffold, who finished 2018 ranked ninth among guards with a 72.8 overall grade, should help to protect Mariota and keep him upright. The team beefed up their pass-rushing unit with the addition of veteran Cameron Wake, who should terrorize opposing quarterbacks even in limited snaps. Wake’s career pass-rushing productivity of 19.7 and his pressure rate of 16.7% both rank second among the 76 pass-rushers with at least 2000 pass-rushing snaps in the PFF era.
The Titans made some excellent additions to their team via the draft, adding talents on offense like A.J. Brown and Nate Davis, who allowed all of four pressures on 234 pass-blocking snaps in his last collegiate season between tackle and guard. They also selected a pair of extremely gifted defenders in Amani Hooker, whose 91.1 coverage grade last season was the second-highest of any defensive back in the country, and DT Jeffery Simmons, who had a run-defense and pass-rushing grade over 90.0 this past season, and finished as PFF’s No. 8 overall player in the class. The Titans hope the additions on offense will get the most out of Mariota, and an improved pass-rushing unit will propel the defense forward another step.
There are high hopes in Indianapolis after seeing the Colts clinch a playoff berth for the first time in four seasons in 2018. A big part of their success last year can be attributed to the resurgence of Andrew Luck, who was named PFF’s Comeback Player of the Year. Luck enters the 2019 season as a legitimate MVP candidate, as he finished with the third-highest overall grade (91.0) at the quarterback position in 2018, tallying 39 passing touchdowns in the process. With the Colts only adding to their offense arsenal from a season ago, Luck is primed and ready for another big season.
Despite having plenty of salary cap space to work with, the Colts improved their roster in free agency without making any big paydays. Re-signing Pierre Desir, Mark Glowinski and Margus Hunt was a clear priority, but the addition of veteran edge defender Justin Houston will make a massive difference. Houston was a salary cap casualty in Kansas City but will have plenty to offer this Colts defense, as he finished with 53 total pressures and an 89.7 pass-rush grade in 2018. The Colts also added veteran wideout Devin Funchess, who could see a bit of a resurgence with Luck under center.
The Colts took advantage of all their draft capital by adding a mix of players on both sides of the ball. Second-round cornerback Rock Ya-Sin has an impressive skillset and earned an 87.5 overall grade while yielding just a 62.1 passer rating when targeted this past season with Temple. Fellow second-round selection Parris Campbell finished his last season at Ohio State with a healthy 3.44 yards per route run from the slot and should fit nicely into the Colts' high-powered offense.
Offensive line is the name of the game for the Texans, and they haven’t exactly been winning in that regard as of late. In 2018, Houston's pass-blocking unit allowed the highest pressure rate in the NFL (44.7%). Quarterback Deshaun Watson has largely counteracted the poor play with his elusiveness, but it’s yet to be seen just how good he can be when he isn’t feeling the heat regularly. While the Texans retain most of their offensive line pieces from a year ago, including Nick Martin (59.3 overall grade), Zach Fulton (52.6) Senio Kelemete (56.0) and Julie’n Davenport (52.5), change is inevitable for the struggling unit.
Free agency was fairly quiet for the Texans. The team's brass signed veteran depth along the offensive line in Matt Kalil, Rick Leonard and the re-signing of Seantrel Henderson. Both Henderson and Kalil spent nearly all of last season on the Injured Reserve. Kalil has had an up-and-down career, earning overall grades hovering around 70.0 in each of his five full seasons. He allowed the 10th-most pressures among tackles in 2017.
It seemed the Texans had ignored their most glaring issue during free agency. That wasn’t the case in the 2019 NFL Draft. Houston selected linemen Tytus Howard and Max Scharping with their first two picks, respectively, in an attempt to stanch the seemingly endless bleeding on the offensive line. Howard and Scharping ranked 56th and 50th, respectively, on PFF's big board ahead of the draft. Howard allowed just 11 pressures on 276 pass-blocking snaps in 2018 while Scharping surrendered 12 on more than 500 pass-blocking snaps. Can they translate that success to the NFL level? The Texans are relying on it.
What can new head coach Bruce Arians do with Jameis Winston? At his best, Winston is a deep ball artist who had 70.5 percent of his passing yards last season come with the ball in the air, which was the most in the NFL. At his worst, he’s a turnover machine, who was 31st in turnover-worthy plays and 30th in negatively graded plays from quarterbacks last season. Arians will try to accentuate the positives and reign in the negatives in his vertical passing system as Winston plays 2019 on his fifth-year option. The defense will have a whole new look as Todd Bowles sheds Tampa Bay of their famous “Cover 2” scheme in favor of his aggressive 3-4 system.
Tampa made its biggest splash in free agency this offseason by releasing longtime defensive tackle Gerald McCoy whose production had slipped in recent years. McCoy finished 2018 with a pass-rushing grade of 66.6 but was still a quality veteran with a 78.6 overall grade in 2018. The team also lost slot receiver Adam Humphries to the Titans and traded receiver DeSean Jackson back to Philadelphia in exchange for a sixth-round pick. The vacancy of Humphries leaves room for third-year receiver Chris Godwin to take a larger role in the offense after recording back-to-back 80-plus seasons to start his career.
Revamping the Bucs defense was the theme of their draft, selecting five defenders in the first five rounds. Top pick Devin White was PFF’s highest-graded linebacker in this spring’s draft due in large part to his incredible 4.42 speed and 91.6 coverage grade. First-year defensive coordinator Todd Bowles continued to build his defense by selecting long physical corners Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean in back-to-back rounds. Murphy-Bunting, in particular, was impressive last season, allowing only 45.9% of passes against him to be completed. Third-round pick Mike Edwards out of Kentucky wasn’t in our top-250 but earned a solid 80.0 overall grade last year. He was followed by versatile edge defender Anthony Nelson, who earned an 85.5 pass-rushing grade and can play inside or outside in the team’s new scheme.
Despite having arguably the least-flashy draft of any team in 2019, the Atlanta Falcons solidified their offensive line. While the unit enters the season as PFF’s No. 22 offensive line, they should see a major upgrade on the right side with the selections of Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. In 2018, Ryan Schraeder was essentially a turnstile at right tackle, allowing seven sacks and getting hit with nine penalties. At right guard, it was much of the same with a combination of Brandon Fusco, Ben Garland and Zane Beadles.
Atlanta went with Lindstrom and McGary in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and both are likely to starters entering Week 1. Lindstrom had the second-best pass-blocking grade among draft-eligible guards in 2018, and he allowed just four pressures on the year. To further shore up that right side, the Falcons took McGary, who ranked 13th in run-blocking grade among draft-eligible tackles in 2018 (75.6) and was also solid in pass-blocking with an 80.6 mark. He’s expected to slot in at the right tackle spot when the season gets underway.
Jake Matthews (79.2) and Alex Mack (79.4) will continue to be leaned upon at the left tackle and center positions, respectively, but the Falcons should feel good entering training camp about their offensive line’s ceiling. All eyes will be on the two rookies. If Lindstrom and McGary live up to the draft hype, the unit could very well be top-10 by the end of the year.
The Panthers made the interesting decision to switch to a three-man front this offseason. The move shifts star defensive tackle Kawann Short from three-technique defensive tackle to five-technique defensive end, where he has limited production in his career. The team focused on revamping the defense around him. Offensively, it was about building a new line in front of Cam Newton and letting the young playmakers in D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel grow into their roles.
Panthers center Ryan Kalil called it a career after 12 seasons this winter. With his retirement and his brother Matt’s move to Houston, the Panthers had holes to fill along the offensive line and acted quickly. They signed PFF’s highest-graded free-agent center Matt Paradis, who has allowed only six sacks in his four NFL seasons. The team also brought back lineman Daryl Williams on a one-year deal in hopes that he can stay healthy and play a full season, which he’s only done once in his four-year career. Edge rusher Bruce Irvin is not a pass-rushing specialist but will likely man one edge defender position for the Panthers' new scheme. Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was a post-draft bonus for the Panthers after he was released by the division rival in May. McCoy will likely serve as the other end opposite of Short in the Panthers base front.
Former Seminole Brian Burns tallied 66 pressures, a pass-rushing grade of 90.5 in 2018 and was an excellent pick by the Panthers in the first round this spring. Carolina then bolstered their offensive line by selecting Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little at 37th overall. He was PFF’s 34th overall prospect and has given up only 26 pressures in two seasons. West Virginia quarterback Will Grier was the 24th-ranked prospect on the PFF Big Board and was the value-steal of the draft in our eyes at 100 overall. Grier showed that he is highly accurate when given a clean pocket, earning the nation’s third-highest passer rating when kept clean last year among qualifying quarterbacks at 132.6. Edge rusher Christain Miller from Alabama offers upside with great physical tools but only 700 career snaps, and fifth-round running back Jordan Scarlett is a power back who should complement McCaffrey well. Scarlett earned an 86.8 rushing grade last year and averaged 3.99 yards after contact per carry.
The Saints once again find themselves trying to reload in a crowded NFC South after another deep playoff run. Despite Drew Brees’ massive cap number, the team was still active in free agency, signing veteran role players to surround their young nucleus of talent on offense and defense. With limited resources available in the draft Saints GM Mickey Loomis tried to make the most of this position he found himself in.
The biggest blow in free agency was the retirement of Saints center Max Unger. While is overall grade had dipped in the past two seasons (60.9 and 62.2), Unger was still an effective pass-blocker with a 74.1 overall grade in 2018. The team responded by signing Nick Easton, who missed 2018 with a neck injury but had not performed exceptionally well in either of his two previous seasons with overall grades of 57.5 and 56.4 in 2017 and 2016, respectively. New Orleans did find a revitalized Jared Cook as a free agent, who had the best season of his career with 896 yards and six touchdowns with the Raiders in 2018. He’s joined by Malcom Brown, who has been a solid run defender for the majority of his career at nose tackle, and former Vikings runner Latavius Murray, who joins Alvin Kamara in the backfield after finishing 18th in the NFL with a 77.9 rushing grade.
The Saints were tapped out of a lot of their draft capital after trading up last year to select edge rusher Marcus Davenport out of UTSA. They exacerbated that situation by trading up again this year. This time it was for center Erik McCoy, who will replace Unger at center in 2019 after allowing only 19 pressures in three seasons at Texas A&M. McCoy was a bit of a reach at 48, as he was our 80th overall prospect, but he has a high-floor according to Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner and was a need pick by the team. Slot corner/safety hybrid Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was a fantastic find for the team in the fourth round. He led all secondary players with 22 stops this past season and was viewed as a second-round value by PFF.
Change has been the keyword for the Bengals this offseason. The team hired former Rams quarterback coach Zac Taylor to replace Marvin Lewis after 16 years at the helm. Taylor is tasked with turning quarterback Andy Dalton into the AFC North version of Jared Goff. The goal this offseason is the same as it’s ever been; improve the team around Dalton to the point that he doesn’t have to carry them. He had that last season with receiver Tyler Boyd (84.6 overall grade) and running back Joe Mixon (78.3) stepping into larger roles and flourishing.
Despite that, the Bengals spent most of the offseason re-signing their own. Preston Brown, Tyler Eifert, Darqueze Dennard, C.J. Uzomah and Bobby Hart all received new deals from the team. Hart struggled all last year, allowing 10 sacks and 39 total pressures en route to a lowly 54.2 pass-blocking grade last season. The team did try to address the offensive line by signing John Miller, who earned a 64.3 overall grade last season in Buffalo. Those plans to improve the line have taken a turn for the worse, though. First-round pick Jonah Williams will miss the season with a torn shoulder labrum and Clint Bolling, the team’s highest-graded lineman last season, retired on the eve of training camp.
Possibly the best move the Bengals made this offseason was to select Alabama’s Williams with their first-round pick. Williams was the fourth overall player on the PFF Top 50 big board and finished the 2018 season as the third-highest graded lineman in the draft (89.2). Their next two picks were a bit less impressive, selecting Washington tight end Drew Sample (192 on PFF’s big board) in the second round and then grabbing NC State linebacker Germaine Pratt, a run-stuffing specialist with their next pick. The team got positional value by trading up for NC State quarterback Ryan Finley at the top of the fourth round. Seventh-round pick Jordan Brown out of South Dakota State was a flyer we liked as a physical corner who dominated at his level.
It’s the dawning of a new era in Pittsburgh after both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown made their much-publicized departures from the team this offseason. The Steelers will have plenty of young faces on offense in 2019, but the leader of the team, Ben Roethlisberger, is back with a three-year contract extension. GM Kevin Colbert also took steps this offseason to finally address their lack of athleticism at linebacker after the unfortunate injury to Ryan Shazier.
The Steelers are traditionally conservative in free agency and once again lived up to that trend. They signed veteran corner Steven Nelson from Kansas City, who earned a 73.6 coverage grade despite being targeted 113 times, which was the most in the NFL last season. They also brought in former Rams linebacker Mark Barron, who earned a 54.5 coverage grade in 2018, which is actually lower than both Vince Williams and Jon Bostic, who both started for the Steelers last season. The Steelers also took a flyer on receiver Donte Moncrief, who flashed potential early in his career but has failed to reach a 70.0-plus receiving grade in the past two seasons.
The Steelers uncharacteristically traded up in the 2019 NFL Draft to select Michigan linebacker Devin Bush with their first pick. Bush fills a massive hole in the middle of the defense and represents a true upgrade with an 85.0 overall grade and an 87.7 coverage grade. The trade left them without a second-round pick, but the team may have struck gold in Toledo's Diontae Johnson in the third round. Johnson is a superb route-runner who nabbed 14 balls for 185 yards and four touchdowns in two games vs. Miami (FL) in 2017 and 2018. The Steelers may have also found an answer at cornerback, grabbing our 39th overall player at pick No. 83 in Michigan State’s Justin Layne.
All the talk about the Ravens revolves around quarterback Lamar Jackson, and rightly so. The questions about his accuracy, whether he’ll hold up in such a run-heavy scheme and generally whether he can be a top NFL quarterback have run rampant this offseason. But let’s switch gears to the other side of the ball, where the Ravens have excelled in years past. With the loss of Za’Darius Smith (71.7 overall grade) and Terrell Suggs (70.0) — the Ravens' top pass-rushers from 2018 — as well as C.J. Mosley (73.6) and Eric Weddle (80.7) departing, there were massive holes to fill after the initial wave of free agency.
That’s a lot of veteran leadership lost over the course of a few weeks. The Ravens ultimately added standout safety Earl Thomas while choosing to stick with younger, in-house players for the other vacancies. Thomas earned a 91.3 overall grade in four games last season, finishing second among safeties. While it’s hard to judge him based off that, he’s put up a 90.0-plus grade in three of the past four years — a feat that is certainly nothing to scoff at. Former 2017 NFL Draft sections Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams are expected to take on larger roles in the pass-rush, but neither has seen more than 200 snaps in a season so far.
In this year’s draft, the Ravens opted for a plethora of offensive weapons, including Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Justice Hill and even the versatile Trace McSorley. In the third round, though, edge defender Jaylon Ferguson’s name was called to come to Baltimore. Ferguson had 64 pressures at Louisiana Tech in 2018 (third-most of all FBS defenders in the 2018 class), and he should figure to fit right into a young Ravens pass-rushing unit. Undeniably, initial doubts will continue to swirl around Baltimore’s defense and offense because this team is going to look a lot different than 2018’s squad.
The smart trend in the NFL is to spend aggressively when you have a talented quarterback on his rookie deal. Browns GM John Dorsey did exactly that this season, putting an incredible array of talent around 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. Some of the moves may have been controversial, but the talent is undeniable, landing star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a blockbuster trade with the Giants. Those moves now have the Browns in position to threaten for the AFC North crown for the first time in a decade.
The biggest moves the Browns made this offseason were the two trades with the Giants sent OBJ and edge defender Olivier Vernon to Cleveland. The latter was the Giants' best pass-rusher, finishing 2018 with an 86.0 pass-rushing grade. Beckham came back from an injury in 2017 to produce the second-best performance of his career with an elite 90.0 grade. The Browns also picked up talented but enigmatic free-agent defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who has the talent but hasn’t earned a pass-rushing grade above 75.0 since 2015. Their most controversial move of the offseason was signing suspended running back Kareem Hunt. When on the field, Hunt has been one of the best backs in the NFL the last two seasons with overall grades of 82.1 and 82.3, respectively.
All of that activity in free agency cost the Browns their first-round pick, but they got a first-round talent in the second when they traded up to select LSU corner, Greedy Williams. He allowed a paltry 39.3 passer rating against at LSU and an outstanding 39.2 completion percentage in his two years at Baton Rouge. The rest of the draft was not as stellar in the eyes of PFF. Sione Takitaki was a bit of a reach in the third round according to PFF's Lead Draft Analyst Mike Renner. Linebacker Mack Wilson has potential, but he failed to post a grade above 72.0 during his time at Alabama.
Trading Mike McCarthy for Matt LaFleur this offseason, Green Bay is hoping for significant improvement from Aaron Rodgers and the offense in 2019. LaFleur’s bunch-heavy scheme should assist the Packers’ receivers in creating separation and, in turn, create more open throws for Rodgers, as will an increase in play-action dropbacks.
Green Bay’s brass turned their attention to the defensive side of the ball in free agency, signing veterans Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith and Adrian Amos. Preston and Za’Darius fill needs at edge defender for the Packers, and Amos steps in as an immediate upgrade at the safety position. Amos earned 82.0-plus overall grades in back-to-back seasons with the Bears in 2017 and 2018.
Keeping their sights on defense, Green Bay spent first-round picks on Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. and Michigan edge defender Rashan Gary. Savage earned 87.0-plus coverage grades in each of his final two collegiate seasons, and while Gary didn’t have great production with the Wolverines, he is chock full of potential considering his size and athletic profile.
We know just how potent Minnesota’s offense can be with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in a groove. We also know just how easy it can collapse under a below-average offensive line, which was oftentimes the case in 2018 as Minnesota’s offensive line ranked tied for 29th in pass-blocking efficiency. With a patchwork offensive front where Riley Reiff was the only player to earn a grade above 70.0, Kirk Cousins was frequently feeling the heat. His 38.9% of dropbacks that came under pressure ranked seventh among qualifying signal-callers.
Dakota Dozier and Josh Kline were the lone free agency signings for the offensive line, with Brett Jones and Rashod Hill re-signing with the squad as well. Neither Dozier nor Jones saw much action last year, but from the small sample size, it’s likely they won’t be major factors in this year’s iteration of unit. Kline is coming off his worst season yet, posting a 58.0 overall grade while allowing the eight-most pressures (38) among guards during the 2018 regular season. Hill began the 2018 campaign as a starter with the Vikings but was relegated to reserve by the end of the year. He surrendered 28 pressures — including five sacks — on 342 pass-blocking snaps. Both his pass-blocking and run-blocking grades were under 60.0.
With that said, it was imperative that the Vikings made a move in the draft, and they definitely did. Garrett Bradbury was the second-highest graded draft-eligible center in 2018 (84.4) and served as the anchor of the NC State offensive line. He allowed just 37 pressures on more than 1,500 pass-blocking snaps in his career, and the Vikings will need him to transition those skills to the NFL level — quickly. They’re relying on him to be the cornerstone of what is currently a lackluster unit.
Matthew Stafford is on the books for roughly $30 million per year over the next three seasons (2019-21). Detroit quite literally can’t afford to keep Stafford at his current price tag if he doesn’t right the ship and start winning more games. The Lions’ brass made moves in the offseason to fit Stafford with more weapons in 2019; it’s up to him to sink or swim.
Detroit signed wide receivers Danny Amendola and Jermaine Kearse to join budding star Kenny Golladay and aging veteran Marvin Jones in the receiver room. Kearse struggled in his two years with the New York Jets, but he could see a bit of a resurgence with what should be better quarterback play in Detroit. Amendola’s receiving grade dropped from 77.0 with New England in 2017 to 66.1 with Miami in 2018. He’s a low-ceiling, high-floor option Stafford could get the best out of this upcoming season.
The Lions went after the 2019 class’ best tight end with their first pick of the draft, selecting former Iowa star T.J. Hockenson at No. 8 overall. He should be an immediate impact starter as both a run-blocker and pass-catcher on the offensive side of the ball. He earned an impressive 90.0 overall grade, 90.8 receiving grade and 74.9 run-blocking grade in his final year with the Hawkeyes.
The Bears’ defense should hardly be a concern entering 2019, but the mystery surrounding the offense is quite the opposite. On paper, the tools are there — running back Tarik Cohen; wideouts Anthony Miller, Allen Robinson, Cordarelle Patterson and Taylor Gabriel; and of course, Mitchell Trubisky. But a season ago, the Bears’ offense earned the 27th-worst passing grade. In 2019, the goal is to match the production of what was PFF’s highest-graded defense.
It’s hard to believe no Bears offensive player earned an overall grade above 80.0 last season, but such was the case. Robinson led the charge with a 77.7 overall grade, but he caught less than 60% of his regular-season targets, finishing 86th out of 108 qualifying wideouts in the category. It was largely the fault of Trubisky, though, as Allen hauled in about 93% of his catchable targets. Thus, the Bears opted to add more weapons this offseason, bringing in Patterson (70.8) and running back Mike Davis (74.9)
The real moves were made in the 2019 NFL Draft. With the additions of running back David Montgomery and wide receiver Riley Ridley, the Bears added two dynamic pieces to their rather average offense. Montgomery was the highest-graded running back in the draft class (91.1) and figures to add a never-before-seen level of elusiveness to the Bears’ backfield. Ridley, meanwhile, hauled in nine touchdowns in 2018 on just 43 catches — an impressive rate that gave him the 10th-best passer rating when targeted among draft-eligible wideouts (133.3). The Bears just need to put these pieces together to build their offense up.